During the week that’s definitely not E3 there have been a number of companies sticking to tradition, hosting events with lots of new videogames to announce. Amongst them was the PC Gaming Show yesterday which just so happened to have a tasty virtual reality (VR) update, a brand new gameplay trailer for Half-Life: Alyx mod Levitation.
The work of modders FMPONE and Corey Laddo – and a few others behind the scenes – Levitation has been gaining plenty of attention ever since it was unveiled earlier this year. While we’d all love an official update from Valve, thanks to the Steam Workshop Half-Life: Alyx is highly moddable with dozens of excellent community additions, and Levitation is gearing up to be one of the best.
Half-Life Alyx: Levitation is going to be a 4-5 hour adventure in City17, set in an area called Sector X which houses a mysterious floating building. G-Man is set to make a return alongside your mate and inventive engineer Russell. Even with the new trailer, little else has been revealed regarding the narrative. At least it’ll serve as a nice (unofficial) side-mission for fans eager for more Half-Life in VR.
From the looks of the gameplay trailer Half-Life Alyx: Levitation is going to be heavily action-oriented, once again pitting Alyx against Combine soldiers and the ever-reliable headcrabs.
Two years after its release Half-Life: Alyxis still regarded as the pinnacle of VR gaming, offering just the right mix of action, immersive interaction and puzzling that the franchise is known for. “A stunningly rich experience from start to finish, Half-Life: Alyx is one of the best VR titles available, a perfect showcase for what VR gaming is capable of,” gmw3 said in its review.
Currently, Half-Life Alyx: Levitation is expected to arrive later this year. While you’re waiting other Half-Life: Alyx mods include Return to Rapture, a two-episode addition set within the Bioshock universe. Or how about VR mods for non-VR titles? Elden Ring, Cyberpunk 2077, Quake 3 Arena, Resident Evil 2 and 3, and more have all been given the unofficial VR mod treatment.
WanadevStudio, the French team behind the excellent rhythm-action title Ragnarockannounced back in December 2021 that its next virtual reality (VR) project would expand the Propagation VRfranchise. Called Propagation: Paradise Hotel, the studio has unveiled the first gameplay trailer showcasing the horrors that await.
While Propagation VR was a basic wave shooter set within an abandoned subway station, Propagation: Paradise Hotel is going to be a proper survival-horror adventure. In a zombie-filled experience, you step into the shoes of Emily Diaz who barricaded herself in the hotel’s kitchen after everyone started to get sick. After a couple of weeks, though, it’s time to leave and save your sister, finding out she’s alive after intercepting a radio message.
And so begins wandering the dimly lit corridors of the Paradise Hotel, uncovering horrors behind every door by the looks of things. WanadevStudios’ trailer showcases pre-alpha gameplay so some of the designs are likely to change but it gives a great sense of the overall atmosphere. The hallways are littered with dead bodies and blood strewn walls, flies buzz around the corpses and the quiet amplifies your footsteps.
You’ll be able to illuminate dark corners with a chest-mounted flashlight that can be detached for great versatility. This is an action-adventure so you’ll have access to weaponry, needing to search rooms for valuable resources such as ammo and batteries so the light remains lit.
There are plenty of standard VR elements you’d expect in Propagation: Paradise Hotel, from manual gun reloading to physically opening doors and peeking around corners. You’ll also need to be on guard for jump scares as the ferocious, skinless zombie at the end reminds gmw3 of the infamous red-head zombies from Resident Evil.
Propagation: Paradise Hotel is currently slated to arrive towards the end of 2022, supporting Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Check out the gameplay below and for further updates, keep reading gmw3.
Despite launching first on Quest, the team at Bit Planet Games ensured us that the PC VR version is not a scaled up version of the Quest 2 release. In fact, it’s the other way around. You can check out the PC VR launch trailer embedded above.
The developers say that the game should shine with the higher specifications on PC compared to standalone hardware, too.
The only caveats for now are that HOTAS support isn’t included for PC VR at launch (but it is coming soon) and multiplayer isn’t quite ready yet. Testing for the latter feature is ongoing, but you can access an early build that’s likely to have stability issues. If you want to access multiplayer on PC regardless, you can find the access code on the Ultrawings Discord server. Until multiplayer and HOTAS support are finished, the game will remain in early access on Steam.
In our review of the Quest 2 release, we called Ultrawings 2 “a super sequel you won’t want to miss”, awarding the game a rare Essential label. You can read the full review here.
Taxis are never just about getting from A to B, they’re small microcosms filled with interesting characters and their stories. Today, developer ZenFri Inc. has announced that its upcoming virtual reality (VR) title The Last Taxi will be pulling up to headsets on Steam at the end of May.
You play the very last human driver in this narrative-driven adventure, toiling away in a dystopian future where surveillance, automation and human modification run rife. Featuring a cast of over 80 characters, in The Last Taxi you must transport your passengers whilst engaging them in conversation but events take a turn when an anti-technology cult member leaves an undocumented baby in your cab.
Like any cab driver, if you keep your customers happy and chatty they’ll be more likely to tip, earning you more money to buy upgrades. These range from new tools to hijack cargo and hacking toll booths to enhancing customer experience. You’ll also need to keep them alive by avoiding environmental hazards and maximise those tips by managing malfunctioning equipment.
As mentioned, this is a surveillance state so taxis are fitted with mandatory listening devices. This means as your passengers talk and reveal personal dilemmas they may also talk about the darker workings of the megacity. There are harsh penalties if you don’t report a suspicious character to authorities and lucrative opportunities if you do. But some may not always be so easy to judge.
“We wanted to explore stories within an expansive post-collapse and environmentally ravaged world. The Last Taxi mirrors today’s climate of division and existential threats. With the art of conversation at its core, we leave all choices firmly in the player’s hands,” said Dee King, Co-Founder of ZenFri Inc. in a statement. “When a wounded cult member abandons a mysterious baby, a rarity even in the wealthiest parts, you’re thrown into an adventure that cuts across all levels of society and brings about choices that can change the future of humanity’s last city on Earth.”
The Last Taxi is currently scheduled to launch on Steam for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index on 31st May 2022, retailing for $29.99 USD/ €26.99 EUR/ £22.99 GBP. For further updates on the latest VR game releases keep reading gmw3.
Nobody likes goblins. They’re always getting into places, causing trouble, generally being a nuisance. I’ll tell you who really hates goblins; the king. As a blacksmith grafting for coin, apparently I’m on speaking terms with this smug-looking monarch. He commissioned me to craft a massive gold statue of him and the local goblins have taken a dislike to them. Or they want the gold. Either way, goblins are attacking, the king doesn’t like that and I have to defend the kingdom. I have no clue why we don’t have soldiers for this.
All I have are a shield and my trusty blacksmithing hammer. Thankfully I can build defences, which should clue you in on what genre Now There be Goblins falls into. This tower defence game plays like many others you will have seen or tried. The enemy enters an arena area and walks a predetermined path towards their goal, which is our failure point. As the hero, I build weapons and barricades to kill any and all goblins.
Across the opening levels I learn how to move around the playing area, plus how to select defence items. This early on, it’s the usual barricade that is placed on the paths to slow down the enemy, as well as a few weapons – crossbow, cannon and sharpshooter. These can be dotted around off the path to lay down damage. But you know this, I’m sure.
The goblins enter the kingdom in waves, variously armoured and kitted out with weapons. A highlight of Now There be Goblins is the ability to pick up the discarded weapons from the goblins, all of which feature differing damage stats and styles, such as bludgeoning or stabbing damage. It’s rather laughable to be standing behind a barrier, swinging both arms wildly to whack and stab horrible goblins.
Of course, in between waves placements can be repaired or upgraded, it’s all very much par for the course. Until the bosses show up, and then everything goes to hell. I was happily building items, looting corpses, defending the kingdom. I knew a boss was in this wave, but I underestimated them severely. They are huge, hulking enemies that seemingly know nothing except swinging a weapon and moving forward. I died. A lot.
However, even with those deaths, I was levelling up to unlock new weapons and items and slowly progress bit by bit. I began to admire the visuals and the wonderful little details that brought my role to life. I will happily write a paragraph about just the blacksmith hammer, which is attached to your arm via a chain. This means it can be thrown… and recalled. Like Thor with Mjolnir. I was lopping the hammer, snapping it back, catching it, taking a bit of a pose. It was glorious.
There were a few graphical glitches from the chain – sometimes it stretched across the entire map, other times it glitched through the placements. But I still felt like a God. And that theme continues in the style of Now There be Goblins, the developers have used a slick cartoon style, with daft, overly large proportions and pops of colour. The weapons and defences feel weighty and look chunky.
I’m still slowly working my way through the campaign. This is an early access title, so it’ll keep receiving updates over time. And I’ll definitely keep coming back. Now There be Goblins has a really delightful gameplay loop, and while the bosses are scary and tough, they feel fair enough to return to the mission and try a new tactic next around. I’ll be back for those goblins, and to protect the kingdom, but I’ve got a Godlike hammer and a bad attitude.
Last summer nDreams launched its most action-packed virtual reality (VR) title to date, the PlayStation VR exclusive Fracked. Well, today the studio has revealed Fracked will soon no longer be exclusive to one platform, with a PC VR launch date now scheduled for next month.
Fracked takes place in a remote mountain facility where you become the unlikely hero who stands between the Earth and an army of gun-wielding, interdimensional enemies. Stealth is not a requirement here, guns, speed and bravado are all you need, progressing from one horde of enemies to the next; causing a few explosions along the way.
With its bold art direction, Fracked’s gameplay is just the same, encouraging you to utilise the environment however you please. Use the grabbable cover system to your advantage and flank enemies, climb towers for a better vantage point or use the numerous zip lines to quickly reposition yourself on the battlefield. And then there are the skiing sections.
“It’s been fantastic to see the love that Fracked has received from players and critics alike since it’s PlayStation VR launch last year,” said David Corless, VP of Publishing at nDreams in a statement. “We’re excited to give new audiences the chance to experience the thrill of Fracked’s high-octane action as they fight to save the world!”
Fracked is set to arrive for SteamVR and Viveport compatible headsets Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index (Meta Quest 2 is supported via Cable/Air Link) on 5th May 2022. It’ll also hit the Oculus Rift store not long afterwards. For continued updates on Fracked and nDreams, keep reading gmw3.
It’s surprising to think that Joy Way used to be location-based entertainment (LBE) specialist PlatformaVR, transitioning into a full-time virtual reality (VR) studio a couple of years ago. During that time the team has released a selection of Steam Early Access titles with the latest to arrive being Outlier. This joins the ever-growing roguelite genre VR developers are loving at the moment, continually fighting and dying, trying to inch closer to the finish line whilst incrementally improving your stats.
Outlier very much has this at the core of its DNA with a basic narrative to give it some structure. You’re the captain of a spaceship looking to find humanity a new home, along the way getting sucked into a black hole that imbues you with powers whilst offering a potential planet. However, that planet is being attacked by hostiles that need clearing out first, so with new said abilities you get to unleash a little mayhem.
As an Early Access release Outlier doesn’t offer many bells and whistles, to begin with. All the VR basics are present, smooth locomotion only, you can grab ledges to climb and guns can be housed over each shoulder (nothing on the hip). There’s no manual reloading, simply pop the gun near your hip to reload making for a quick arcade-style experience. Early on there seemed to be some inconsistency when it came to dropping the gun. Rather than popping it over my shoulder, simply letting it go generally left it there although on the odd occasion it seemed to auto-return. Ahh, the vagaries of an early access videogame.
Planetside, Outlier looks great, fighting through what look like ancient ruins and temples, giant monoliths stretching skywards with plenty of undulation in the level design; keeping most of the enemy encounters in small areas. Joy Way has also used a trick where the environment is entirely contained within canyons (so far at least), presumably because levels are procedurally generated. In any case, it doesn’t feel confined, with plenty of room to manoeuvre.
And you’ll need to, the first opponents encountered are fast and deadly accurate with their throwing axes. It takes a moment to actually keep up and track their movements as they flit from side-to-side, unusually tricky for introductory foes. They’re actually a bit too erratic in all honesty and there were times where it felt easier to just run up and gun butt them, only to find I couldn’t! I’m also not a fan of the ragdoll effects when they die, definitely seems out of place in this style of VR experience.
Physical violence may have been off the cards but thankfully Outlier doesn’t just provide guns, you can unleash some telekinetic rock throwing. Thus you’ve got the option to dual wield two guns when you’ve found them, a gun and helpful rock or just go full-on Jean Grey and start hurling boulders around the place. Alas, you can’t just rip them out of the ground, only certain rocks and pots can be lobbed but even so, it makes Outlier physical, interactive and fun.
Now, as mentioned this is a roguelite which means gaining loads of useful stuff, death, losing all your stuff and then upgrading core abilities to go back at it. Outlier achieves this in a number of ways, the first being the in level buffs. Every so often you’ll come across a glowing pedestal with 2 or 3 items, usually 3 buffs or 1 buff and a gun. Buffs can range from improving your grab distance and walking speed to upping the number of times you can dash in succession or adding perks like Death from Above where you gain a 10% damage improvement when airborne.
These are all your temporary boons, the permanent ones come from killing enemies to gain some sort of magical energy. This is the good stuff, only usable onboard your spaceship once you’ve died. At the moment the ship doesn’t look as good as the rest of Outlier, very bland in its aesthetic and user interface. There’s also the less than inspiring voiceover for the story narration and gameplay tutorial. It’s not the only thing that needs some more polish whilst inside early access, enemy wall glitching and game crashes were two of the more prominent issues.
Outlier also seems to have been influenced (partially) by Joy Way’s biggest VR title Stride. The jump/dash mechanic takes a little getting used to, as it’s a physical flick. You have to hold the A button down then flick the controller in a direction, releasing the button at the same time. It is a gameplay fundamental learning to quickly dash sideways, backwards, or jump across chasms.
All of this combines to make Outlier an intriguing prospect. It could possibly become Joy Way’s biggest and baddest VR game to date, with some wicked looking enemy design – especially the boss – and variety when combining gems to upgrade yourself. However, this is the studios’ fourth early access videogame on Steam, begging the question as to whether they’ll all stay in this EA limbo or actually come to fruition. There are some excellent roguelite videogames available for VR headsets and Outlier could well join this group, eventually.
Squingle is one of those virtual reality (VR) videogames that has to be played to be really understood. Basically, it’s a psychedelic puzzle title where you have to guide revolving orbs through twisting liquid crystal mazes. If that wasn’t hard enough, Squingle Studios has just added a speedrun gameplay mode, truly testing your puzzle-solving skills.
Normally, Squingle is a fairly casual VR experience where you can relax and find your way through the 100 trippy levels. If you’ve already completed them and really love a challenge – or maybe love speedrunning videogames – then the addition of a speedrun timer might be just what you’re looking for.
Talking to gmw3 in an email regarding the idea behind the new speedrun mode Benjamin Outram of Squingle Studios explained: “I’ve always been fascinated by speedrunning since I saw a Technology Assisted Speedrun (TAS) of Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES. There is a small but active speedrunning community in VR – notably doing speedruns of Superhot VR, Moss, and Boneworks. Our VR game, Squingle, lends itself to trying to play quickly, almost like a platformer, and as an indie game studio talking with the speedrunning community seemed like not only a natural fit to the game, but a great way to support our players.
“A speedrunner going by ‘BlitzVR’, who is famous for a viral IGN video ‘Moss (VR) Developers React to 43 Minute Speedrun’, got in touch with an interest to set a score on Squingle,” Outram continues. “Having asked the community what features might help them, the biggest request is for an ‘in-game-clock’. This sets the standard by not relying on external timing equipment to time your run, making it less friction to record a speed run. So based on Blitz’ interest, I went about to implement a speedrun timer.”
However, this isn’t your ordinary gameplay mode you’ll suddenly see pop up in the main menu, it’s partially hidden – although still easy to access. All you need to do is turn ‘story mode’ to ‘OFF’ in the options.
“This stops the main character appearing every ten levels (which would just waste time!). After every ‘epoch’ (group of 20 levels) – as long as you started at level 1 – the timer appears to show you your total time for that epoch. Assuming you have completed all the levels without going back to the level-select screen, or retried any levels, then your time for the whole game also gets presented at the credits at the end, as well as your scores (how many lizards and petals you collected).”
And that’s it, happy speedrunning through Squingle. If you’ve not tried it out yet you can find Squingle on Steam where there’s a free demo available and on Meta Quest’s App Lab. Oh, and by the way, Squingle is a Game Development World Championship (GDWC) finalist alongside the likes of A Township Tale and Maskmaker.
For all the latest updates on VR, keep reading gmw3.
2021 had some classic virtual reality (VR) videogames arrive including indie gems like Mare. The work of Visiontrick Media, a team based in Sweden and Japan, Mare offered a wonderfully imagined world and puzzles, even if it was a little short. Initially exclusive to Meta Quest, the studio has now confirmed Mare is coming to SteamVR later this month.
Since the Quest launch, Visiontrick Media has worked on making sure Mare fully utilises the extra power PC VR headsets can access. “The PC version will feature a whole new level of visual fidelity including real-time lightning among other improvements making it an even more engrossing experience to savour in virtual reality,” the studio notes in a statement.
Mare is set in a mysterious world that you view from overhead, controlling a mechanical bird from perch to perch. As you do so you encounter a young girl who’s seemingly lost and in need of your help. You then have to guide your new AI companion through a vast interlocking landscape, full of deadly traps and a few inhabitants.
Spanning eight chapters, Mare rolls from open puzzle to the next, slowly revealing its narrative as well as hidden secrets if you’re observant.
Reviewing the Meta Quest version of Mare, gmw3 said: “Mare is as an enchanting as it is bewildering. There’s nothing wrong with its vague narrative as that mystery is what keeps it interesting[…] but just because it is pretty doesn’t mean to say Mare forms a cohesive whole, feeling like it’s not quite reached its potential.”
Mare is scheduled to launch on SteamVR for PC VR headsets on 17th March 2022. Check out the new trailer below and for further updates on the latest VR games, keep reading gmw3.
It has been a long old road for Tin Hearts, an adorable little puzzle title that was initially revealed by Rogue Sun all the way back in 2016; for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Today, the studio has revealed several new screenshots as well as the most important detail, a release window for the end of this year.
Taking inspiration from classics like Lemmings, Tin Hearts involves guiding a troop of mischievous tin soldiers through a craftsman’s workshop. Alter their path with various toys and objects, bounce them across tables and make sure they don’t crash to the floor, all in a bid to get them to the end goal.
At the same time, you uncover a magical narrative that spans not only generations but also dimensions as well; all based around Albert Butterworth, a genius inventor in Victorian times. Exactly what you’d expect from Rogue Sun, a team formed after the closure of Lionhead Studios – the developer of Fable.
As it’s been six years since Tin Hearts was revealed it has certainly expanded upon its initial VR premise. Back in 2018, Rogue Sun released Tin Hearts: Prologue giving an early access tease of the videogame before pulling it entirely due to a new publishing partnership with Wired Productions. Then last year Tin Hearts resurfaced at a Wired Direct event, confirming the videogame was still in production but would also get a non-VR edition.
After all these years Tin Hearts is now slated to arrive during Q4 2022, still supporting PC VR headsets like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index, whilst adding Meta Quest 2, PlayStation VR, PlayStation 4 & 5, Nintendo Switch and Xbox consoles.
Tin Hearts is one of those VR titles gmw3 has been looking forward to playing more of after previewing it four years ago: “It feels almost like being inside a Disney movie, with beautiful use of light and wood to build a scene that has a great sense of presence, with just the right amount of toys and other paraphernalia littered about the place.”
There’s still a while to wait though. If any further details do arise gmw3 will let you know.